A review overview

Mike Lindgren

Mike Lindgren, chief project officer, wrote this column.

In the project office here at Fermilab, there is a lot of focus on preparing for the reviews that mark the critical stages of overall project progress.

The review process is involved. Every project goes through five DOE critical-decision steps to assess readiness to progress to the next stage. Director’s readiness reviews usually precede the critical-decision reviews. Mini-reviews and additional once- or twice-yearly DOE progress reviews help move projects forward and flag potential issues for all the stakeholders.

While the above reviews are important, they do not guarantee success. To really dig deep into the work, our project teams commission independent design reviews for all subsystems throughout the project lifecycle. These provide an independent assessment of a project’s continuing ability to meet its technical and programmatic commitments and to provide assistance to the project manager. They are appropriately phased to the DOE critical decision steps and director’s readiness reviews and provide valuable input to these higher-level reviews.

One nice aspect of the project-initiated design review is that outside experts are invited to evaluate the project’s approach, recommend options and communicate on its progress and risks. In this way they offer an opportunity to add value to the project’s deliverables and to share its related cutting-edge technology. The design review outputs are used as inputs into subsequent reviews as appropriate. They help ensure alignment between providers, customers and stakeholders, and proper disposition of issues.

Reviews also formally provide an opportunity to organize, assess and communicate critical data and information. The project teams typically organize and conduct reviews at the stages of requirements, conceptual design, preliminary design, final design, production readiness and operational readiness. These are in addition to progress reviews and a host of safety reviews. Their rigor and depth follow a graded approach tailored to the risk level of the component or subsystem being built. Because our projects involve building things that are difficult or unusual, our level of rigor is higher than if we were buying commercial, off-the-shelf parts. It requires tremendous dedication and attention to detail by the project, and the reviewers to make sure that everything is checked and understood.

Their efforts are appreciated by all and are a crucial element in successful project delivery.